Eyes In Magazine – May 2014
Collaging and Questioning the Transformation Into Modernity
By Vivian Van Dijk
Successful art beckons the viewer to pause, to step out of sync with the daily march, even if just for a moment, and consider a meaning on a different plane of thought. Visual artist and collage extraordinaire, David Barnett, achieves this success time and again with his mechanical constructions and collage creations, made of uncycled materials and discarded pieces of machinery.
Often revealed through images from the Victorian era and a conglomeration of individual random pieces, including flying machines working mechanical pieces and anatomical diagrams, Barnett’s intent with his art is to peel back the curtain on modern advancements to reveal what it really is – an experiment.
1. As a child, what did you want to become (career-wise)?
An Architect. My father told me an architect needs to be strong in math, so that eliminated that idea.
2. In which town did you grow up?
Jericho, New York.
3. Do you think your background has influenced your current art style? If so, what specific element in your background is most pervasive in influencing your artistic style?
When I entered the 9th grade I took a design class. I was immediately hooked. My teacher was a recent graduate of Pratt Institute, Dave Robertson. He was so challenging and inspiring that I took every class he taught for the next four years. I believe my career in the arts all began because of his guidance.
4. What inspires you in the job of being an artist?
That it’s not a job it’s an addiction. Anatomy, technology, botany, architecture, nature, found objects, religious iconography, those are some of the things that inspire me.
5. In which way do you consider yourself an innovative creator?
Letting my work be dictated by the concept, whether it’s a construction, collage, or a hybrid. Each piece is like a little invention and will hopefully add to my palette in the future.
6. Which basic elements of creativity did your family teach you?
My family was very supportive. My father was an accountant who disliked what he did for a living. I think he appreciated the fact that I was so passionate about my art.
My wife Barbara is an instrumental critic for my work. She has a great eye and is so much more objective about my work than I could ever be.
7. What is the significance and meaning behind the art you create? How has your focus changed over you long, successful career?
My objective is generally the same: to comment on humanity and technology. I try to depict the interplay between the two—all the while questioning whether modern technology has become so overwhelming that it is now swallowing man’s identity. The result may be the mixed-media depiction of a female abdomen spawning technological artifacts, or the three-dimensional construction of a boy who is part human, part machine.
I’m fascinated with the battered and outdated mechanical objects that friends and neighbors discard. Let’s call it society’s excess. My new work speaks to some of my recurring themes: most notably, the battle between society and automation for man’s soul.
8. Would you share with us your inspiration in “Remains to Be Seen”?
As I mentioned earlier, it’s a reference to society’s excess. Discarded fragments... “remains” of technology seen in a new light.
9. How did you come up with the idea to transform rejected machinery into works of art?
Rejected machinery fits right into my concept of excess. The patina of aging can’t be reproduced. I believe it provides my work with a quality of reality... a certain credibility that juxtaposes fantasy.
10. What do you hope people will see and/or glean from your work?
A visit into my world. Sometimes macabre, sometimes whimsical, the bottom-line...I hope people find my work inspiring.
11. Would you share with us your creative process in composing your art pieces?
I start my process much the way I imagine an author approaches a work of fiction: A character is born. a story line begins. If you listen carefully enough, the character will guide you through the entire journey.
12. Do you have a favorite artist yourself?
• The collages of Joseph Cornell, Kurt Schwitters and Hannah Hoch.
• The Quay Brothers stop-action animations and set designs.
• The smart, often dark imagery of many European poster artists such as Hans Hillman, Gunther Keiser and Roman Cielewicz.
• Arthur Ganson’s mechanical sculptures.
• Of course, Leonardo da Vinci’s technical drawings for industry.
And many more.
13. Are you ever afraid you will run out of inspiration and creativity in your art?
Occasionally it’s difficult getting motivated once I’ve completed a piece that’s taken several months, but after a period of time it becomes frustrating if I don’t begin work on something new. Although, very often I begin sketching ideas for my next piece as I’m completing my latest work.
14. Is there any project on the horizon that you anticipate working on that you can share with us?
I’m currently working on a zeppelin that’s designed to be powered by gears and pedals...reminiscent of a bicycle, driven by four elderly gentleman. It’s called Airship for Lazy Bones.
15. What is the most difficult thing of your job?
I wouldn’t say difficult but distracting. Creating pedestal, vitrines, shipping containers, and documenting and photographing each piece. Framing the work, maintaining my web site, etc. In other words, all the follow-up tasks that are necessary.
16. What is the most fun part of your job?
17. Do you expect your way of creating art to change in the future?
It’s a slow evolution. I’ll just have to see where my work takes me.
18. Do you embrace the changes in the art industry regarding social media and technology influences?
They both serve a useful purpose. Social media for contacts and the internet for research.
19. What do you consider to be your greatest masterpiece?
Masterpiece is a really strong word. I hope my best work is my most recent. I like to think each new piece adds something to my vocabulary and is introduced as my work progresses.
20. Do you have any preferences for an artist? And/or for creators of artistic or innovative works? (Creators can also be chefs, designers, fashion designers or inventors.)
My preference is an artist that has an original voice. An identity all their own. Their work is as distinct as their individual handwriting.
21. If so, why is that? What special quality do you like in their work or personality?
• Wes Anderson: I admire his graphic approach and narrative style to film making. Every frame is meticulously constructed.
• Antoni Gaudi: His buildings are completely distinctive in every detail. It’s art on an immense scale.
• Arthur Ganson: His sculptures are like industrial poetry. The moving elements make your heart slow down and consider the pace of our daily existence.
22. In which ways do you think traditional art and modern visual art are different and/or similar?
I don’t think modern art could exist without traditional art. Traditional art sets the rules and modern art breaks them.
23. Do you aspire to collaborate in your creations with an artist or innovative creator from another discipline?
Yes. An engineer. Someone to make sure my mechanical devises actually work.
24. Do you follow any philosophical or psychological approach in your creating your art?
25. What is your favorite building in the world? (If more than one, please list more, and if you like, please add motivation to your favorite(s).)
Any building designed by Antoni Gaudi. You’ve entered the world of Alice and Wonderland, but it’s functional. His stamp is on everything from the magical facades to smallest detail.
26. What is your favorite hotel? (If more than one, please list more, and if you like, please add motivation to your favorite(s).)
The Mohonk Mountain House in the foothills of the Catskill mountains in New York state. The structure is like an Adirondack castle that takes you back to another time.
27. What would be your ideal home? (If more than one, please list more, and if you like, please add motivation to your dream home(s).)
My home. It’s a two story brick row house built in the late 1890’s. It sits at the end of Main street in a small town that has several art gallerys, restaurants and a music hall. The first floor is completely renovated, modern and open. The facade blends into the neighborhood. My studio is on the second floor overlooking the Hudson river. It’s a wonderful environment to create my art.
28. What is your favorite working location?
My studio. If I was a painter I could be more flexible, but my approach requires me to be in my studio to be as productive as possible.
29. Do you have any personal and/or professional dreams for the future?
To continue what I’m doing... picking up inspiration along the way.
30. Is there anything else you would like to add to this interview?
I’d like to thank you for your interest in my work. It’s been fun. I think I’ve said it all.